Q: Your EP “Unlearning” is amazing and sort of like a representation of a break-up process. What was your purpose in making the EP?
CHIIKA: Thank you so much! The EP was definitely me trying to let go of certain things and events that I’d processed but still found were clinging onto me. I never necessarily think when I’m writing, but when I emerged from the writing haze for “Unlearning,” I was surprised to find myself with such a cohesive piece. So, I suppose I didn’t really have a purpose going into it, but a purpose definitely came to fruition after the fact.
Q: “Gr8ful/H8ful” and “Saviour” are songs that touch on what happens at the beginning stage of a break up, mentally. How were you able to find the lyrics to perfectly describe how a lot of people feel during that stage?
CHIIKA: Okay, here’s something fun—both of these tracks were the “listened to the beat and the lyrics just came out” kind. I think the concept of things like toxic positivity and forced happiness had been floating around my Instagram feed at the time I wrote “Gr8ful/H8ful,” and while I’m a big fan of acknowledging the nuances of a difficult event and how you cannot want to change who you are now whilst still regretting some of the things you went through….my instinctive reaction to seeing those posts was really childish and very “you can’t tell me how to feel, fight me”—and honestly, that’s the entire emotion behind “Gr8ful/H8ful”! It’s like —”how dare you try and manipulate my view of this experience, or tell me it was for some kind of greater good? I’ll process it and decide for myself, thanks very much, so go take a hike xxx” if you get the vibe. I guess, overall, being somewhere between a millennial and Gen Z gives you access to a wider range of vocabulary. I write songs using the same voice I talk in—my music is very stream of consciousness, like talking to myself or a good friend, and I think that very much lends itself to accessible and relatable language.
Q: “Real Deep” is so sexy and you did an amazing job with capturing the true thoughts and feelings pertaining to getting to know someone before jumping into anything. What were your emotions as you were writing this song? What mental state did you put yourself into?
CHIIKA: This is such big compliment, thank you! I was so determined to write a “sexy song” despite my relative lack of IRL experience, and I’m so proud of the result. I really wanted to express that feeling of “okay, there’s a connection, but hold up for a second because I’m not committing just yet,” so, I spent some time replaying any related experiences in my head and then just tried to write lyrics that spoke to those people. For me, it’s a pretty vulnerable song—it juxtaposes that fear of “what if I ‘come off a little strong’ and scare them off?” with the bravado and cheek of someone who knows what she wants, who won’t tolerate anything shallow. I definitely held all those thoughts in mind when I was writing—that awkward nervous fear, that confidence, and that steadfast belief in not wasting my time on people who don’t add on. I think I felt quite self-righteous and powerful when I wrote it! Like “just because you’re cool doesn’t mean I’m going to go for it” or “just because I really like you doesn’t mean that this is guaranteed. The vibe check was just step one. Now you have to pass the commitment/long-term/sustainable check.
Q: That lyric “I’ll be sipping me, my own validation” in “Incredible” is powerful. Why do you think self-empowerment is important, especially after a breakup?
CHIIKA: So, when you break up with someone, all the good-happy-loving hormones like dopamine that you were getting from the relationship vanish, and from what I understand you essentially go through a type of withdrawal. Quite often with breakups you’re not just losing a significant other; you’re losing a friend and one of the people who knew you the most, too. It can be really world-shaking and really affect every aspect of your day-to-day existence, and that’s gotta be one of the most importnat moments to be able to big yourself up and love yourself and be confident that a) you don’t have to rely on that person to be happy and fulfilled and powerful and b) that although it’s a shame, you’re still going to move on with life and one day it’ll be okay, and in the meantime, you’re still awesome. You’re never going to feel perfect after something so difficult, especially if the breakup made you realize you have things you have to work on, but you can still be “incredible” despite those imperfections. That’s what I wanted to convey—in the song I talk about how you’re “taking one sip, but I’m too strong, you’ve had enough” but that doesn’t mean it’s an “altercation,” it just is what it is. We’re still not “living it up,” we’re still spending our days on the grind, but observing just how far we’ve come and how much better things are now than they were before—that capacity for self-growth is what makes us incredible.
Q: Why is the EP titled, “Unlearning”?
CHIIKA: Honestly, it’s because the first line of “Gr8ful/H8ful” (the first track) goes “I spent a year unlearning the s— that you taught me.” It’s the line that really embodies this entire EP to me, it’s the process of “unlearning” negative unhelpful behaviors and acknowledging both the objective truths and your own account, and then healing and growing from it. My journey to writing music involved a lot of unlearning things and this EP was kind of the culmination of that journey, so when I was trying to figure out a title for the EP, it just felt right.
Q: What are your next plans for your music career?
CHIIKA: Gigs! Gigs! More gigs! Also, so much more music! I’m doing a livestreamed gig May 13, releasing a single May 17, and then I’ve got my first ever live show on May 27 in London, which feels awesome. I’ve got a lot of songs in the bank that I can finally start to record, now that lockdown is easing. I just want to get out there and onto a stage and connect with people and vibe out, and then continuously hone my craft and level up and make really good music that comes from my soul. If I can do those two things, the rest will follow, I think.
Interviewed by Taylor Berry